Monday 30 September 2013

Welcome to my Echo Blog ...

'I can write back as easily as a wall makes an echo ...'
Edward Thomas to Gordon Bottomley, 1902*

'Footfalls echo in the memory
T.S. Eliot
'Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance ...'
Carl Sandburg

'Writing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo ...'
Don Marquis (quoted in 'Waiting for the Echo', listed in bibliography). 

* See title page of Edward Thomas's Poets ed. Judy Kendall, (Carcanet 2007)


Background to my Echo Blog...

This blog arose out of my short article on Echo Verse for Poetry Cornwall / Bardhonyeth Kernow.

Latest News...

25 March 2013
I heard my mp3 recording of my poem, 'Turner's Loch Coruisk', echoing through the engine shed tunnels of The Roundhouse in Camden as part of the Invisible Architecture Installation by Antlers Press. It was a novel way to mark World Poetry Day. The poem was inspired by Turner's watercolour of the famous loch on Skye.

More information about the Camden Roundhouse arts centre here

An internal tunnel radiating from the central circle


July 2013
'Walking in Echoes' - a poem by Dawn Bauling, Reach Poetry, #178

24 September 2012
I have just encountered this poem, 'Echo', on the Via Negativa blog. 

18 July 2012
The issue of Poetry Cornwall/Bardhonyeth Kernow can be found here in electronic form on the Southbank Poetry Library site. 

23 May 2011
A copy of 'A Riddle' by Catherine Maria Fanshawe (1765-1834) has just come to light in my study. You can read the poem here, and there is information about about poet and poem, here. The 'echo' allusion is in the second line. 

April 2011
I found a brief yet deeply profound 'echo' allusion in Immediacies by John Dotson (Mariprosa Press 1987).

1 September 2010
I have just come across an Education Website, with instructions for those who wish to help youngsters to write their own Echo poems.

21 August 2010
I have just received a marvellous poem about Echo the Elephant from the pen of Born Free Foundation Poet-in-Residence, Richard Bonfield. Echo lived on Mount Kilimanjaro, and was the first elephant to have a radio collar fitted for scientific purposes.

27 April 2010
Professor Lewis Turco, author of one of my favourite books, The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, now has a short section on Echo Verse (and a mention of the Bref Double) in his online work, The Book of Odd and Invented Forms: A Samisdat Manuscript in Circulation. Professor Turco is Emeritus Professor of English at State University of New York, Oswego.

26 April 2010
I have just been enjoying a couple of Echo Poems here on Do take a look and be inspired to have a go yourself!

16 October 2009
The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

I have just returned from an excellent international evening at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, hosted by Peter Thabit Jones, editor of The Seventh Quarry poetry magazine. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Dylan's daughter, Aeronwy, who had toured parts of the USA with Peter earlier this year.

During the course of the evening, Sultan Catto, 'a professor of theoretical physics at the CUNY Graduate School and at the Rockefeller University' and 'Executive Officer pf the PhD program at City University of New York' read a poem, 'Echo', from p.33 of his collection, Under the shadows of your falling words (Ediciones Godot Argentina 2008, ISBN978-987-1489-06-0). The poem, it seems to me, is full of spatial possibilities and unexpected reflections: we wander and wonder in a realm of 'secluded mirrors' and 'unending walkways'.

Sultan was joined by Aleksey Dayen, and I was able to buy his book, 'NO!Love' (ISBN 978-0-89304-225-7), published by Cross-Cultural Communications in New York. Aleksey gave a highly individual reading of 'Jailbird Blues', accompanied by singer-songwriter, Terry Clarke. It was a most enjoyable evening.


Background to my Echo Blog... continued

The article on Echo Verse for Poetry Cornwall / Bardhonyeth Kernow was written to accompany my poem, Echo from the West.

In the course of unravelling a little about the history of Echo Verse for the article, I became fascinated by the subject and thought that the best way to order my discoveries was - initially at least - via a blog. So here it is. It is primarily intended as a reference resource.

I hope you will come to enjoy this intriguing poetic phenomenon, too: indeed I should be grateful to hear of other favourite examples, even if I cannot promise to list everything.

My Echo Verse article has just been published in issue 26 (Volume 8, Number 3) of Poetry Cornwall / Bardhonyeth Kernow.
The sections in my Echo index to date are as follows:

Saturday 21 March 2009

(1) Echo Article: Poetry Cornwall

Echo from the West: An Overview of Echo Verse
by Caroline Gill

This short article appears in issue 26 (2009) of Poetry Cornwall / Bardhonyeth Kernow.

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Thursday 19 March 2009

(2) Classical Echo Verse and allusions to the nymph, Echo

Echo, the nymph, appears frequently in classical literature. She is quite often the subject of Echo Verse. The story of Echo and Narcissus was well known in antiquity. The subtleties of Echo Verse do not translate easily, but see e.g. the rendering of lines 1082f. on p.171 of Thesmophoriazusai in Aristophanes: Plays 2 by Patric Dickinson (OUP). The Greek alliteration for the title of this particular comedy varies slightly from one translation to another. There are allusions to Echo and/or references to passages of Echo Verse in the following texts:


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Wednesday 18 March 2009

(3) Echo Verse and the Echo motif in French Literature

The Echo motif was often seen as a playful motif in French Renaissance Literature. Du Bellay was much influenced by Homer, Cicero and others.

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Tuesday 17 March 2009

(4) Echo Verse and the Echo motif in English Literature (including Shakespeare)

Above and Below:
Kenilworth Castle where Queen Elizabeth I was treated to Echo Verse.

Kenilworth Castle has been in the news a lot this year on account of the amazing £2.1 million restoration of the Elizabethan Garden, based on the description of the garden in a letter of 1575. Articles are appearing on this enchanting story. Recommended ones are listed below:
  • Kenilworth Castle, the wooing of a Virgin Queen by Chris Catling in Current Archaeology 232, p.34.
  • Scents and Seduction by Trea Martyn in Heritage Today, May 2009, p.14
The central feature of the Elizabethan Garden incorporates a back-to-back marble statue of two Atlantes, who balance a globe-shaped water fountain on their shoulders. You can read more about the reconstruction project on The Architects' Website and also on Patrick Baty's blog, News from the Colourman.

The Atlantes in the Elizabethan Garden reconstruction at Kenilworth
Spring 2009

In the run-up to National Poetry Day on Thursday 8 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph for Saturday 3 October 2009 features a new poem by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, entitled 'Atlas'. The poet is concerned with climate change, and the poem alludes to the giant's precarious balancing act as he bears his fragile but precious burdens aloft. The accompanying picture (which does not appear in the online edition) looks much like the Atlantes at Kenilworth, and I began to wonder if there was a difference between Atlas, the Titan with the terrestrial globe on his shoulders (Greek: Ἄτλας), and the Atlantes. I suspect that the names can be used interchangeably, but please advise me if you know otherwise!

Plato informs us, incidentally, that the first king of Atlantis was also named Atlas; but that although he was Poseidon's son, he did not number among the immortal deities.


There have been many British exponents of Echo Verse through the ages. Those listed below represent a small selection of them.

George Gascoigne (c.1539-1577/8)

Gascoigne attended Lord Leicester at Kenilworth Castle during the summer of 1575, and helped with the entertainment for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I.

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604)

Scholars have not always found it easy to tell whether some works come from the hand of Shakesepare or of De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Oxford, it seems, wrote a poem called Anne Vavasour's Echo (sometimes written as Anne Vavasor's Echo). It resonates with Shakespeare’s echo verse in Venus and Adonis, and some have linked Vavasour to Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady’ of the sonnets. Edward de Vere’s lines on Romeo are particularly witty: the echo of the hero’s name is ‘eo’, which can also be read as the initials for the Earl of Oxford:

I would tear the cave where Echo lies,
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than mine,
With repetition of my Rom-eo's name.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

His sister, Mary, Countess of Pembroke was married to Henry, the eldest son of William Earle of Pembroke.
Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Anne Hathaway's Cottage,

Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out.
Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 5, Shakespeare
Barnabe Barnes (1569-1609)

Richard Barnes, son of Dr Richard Barnes, the bishop of Durham entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1586. He did not graduate, but in 1591 he accompanied the Earl of Essex on his expedition to Normandy. Barnes published Parthenophil and Parthenophe in 1593. He was prosecuted in the Star Chamber in 1598 on a charge of attempted poisoning, but escaped to the north of England.

  • See Sonnet 89 ... 'marigold', '' etc.
John Donne (1572–1631)

He was appointed the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London in 1621.
  • To Mr T.W. The Culture and Rhetoric of the Answer Poem 1485-1626 Chris Boswell
Lady Mary Wroth (c.1587-c.1651)

I have yet to find a true example of 'echo verse' (in the sense of Herbert's 'Heaven') from Wroth, but she writes about Eccho. Wroth was Robert Sidney's daughter. Robert, himself a poet, was brother to Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke.
Richard Brathwayte aka Braithwaite (1588–1673)

Drunken Barnaby's Four Journeys records the dubious hero's pilgrimages through England in rhymed Latin, under the pseudonym of Corymbaeus. The work was highly praised by Southey. Brathwayte is said to be an imitator of George Wither. (Check Pinder).
  • Barnabee's Journal (first published in 1638 as Drunken Barnaby's Four Journeys to the North of England) contains examples of diminishing verse. It also features Eccho at Burleigh on p.105.
  • About Richard Brathwayte - and here.
William Browne (c.1588–c.1643)

A plaque in Tavistock

This poet from the ‘Tavy's voiceful stream’ produced elegies, anagram poems and echo verse. The young Keats was influenced by his work. Browne supplied a poem to Michael Drayton for the second book of his significant topographical work, Poly-Olbion. He also produced a variety of poetic forms, including elegies, anagram poems and echo verses. Browne dedicated his second volume of Britannia’s Pastorals (1616) to William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, and resided for a time at Herbert’s home, Wilton House, where contemporary visitors can enjoy the muted echoes of the Whispering Seat.
George Herbert (1593-1633)

St Andrew's Church, Bemerton
near Salisbury and Wilton

Herbert, like Sir Philip Sidney, was a notable exponents of the form at a time when a piece of Echo Verse was sung in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I on her visit to Kenilworth Castle in 1575. Herbert’s poem, 'Heaven', demonstrates the role of the echo in diminishing verse.
Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

Shepherd. If music softens rocks, love tunes my lyre.
Echo. Liar.

From 'A Gentle Echo on Woman'

Swift also wrote a poem about An Echo.

Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957)

Knox, the Roman Catholic theologian and friend of Evelyn Waugh, penned a masterful echo poem, ‘The Visitors’ Book, Hartland Quay’, which includes a Classical Greek pun on his name. Monsignor Ronald Knox is described on the back of The Knox Brothers by Penelope Fitzgerald (daughter of Ronald's brother, Edmund) as 'Roman Catholic chaplain to Oxford University's student body, preacher, wit, scholar, crime-writer and translator of the Bible.' Knox and his three brothers were the sons of an 'Evangelical Bishop of Manchester'. They all enjoyed poetry and puzzles. Ronnie, as he was affectionately known, has the distinction of being hailed as 'the wittiest young man in England' by the Daily Mail in 1924.

As we have noted, echo verse is often playful, witty and humorous. Knox, in his introduction to Essays in Satire writes that 'the pure humorist is a man without a message'. He states that (in his opinion) 'humour as a force in literature is struggling towards its birth in Jane Austen, and hardly achieves its full stature until Calverley. I know that there are obvious exceptions. There is humour in Aristophanes and in Petronius; there is humour in Shakespeare, though not as much of it as one would expect; humour in Sterne, too, and in Sheridan ... Under correction, then, I am maintaining that literature before the nineteenth century has no conscious humour apart from satire.'

Aristophanes, it seems to me, was one of the earliest known exponents of echo verse, and I suspect that Knox's echo verse poem (with its Greek pun) about Hartland Quay gives a nod in passing to the 'humorous' comic poet of Greek antiquity. His poem, which you can read in the text of Juxta Salices (link to book) ends with the following couplet, hinting that in the Doric Greek of the poet, Pindar (in which the word for Echo becomes A-CH-A in the transliterated form, rather than E-CH-E of the Ionian script), Echo's identity is closely linked with the poet's own:

COYDON. What is thy name? For Attic mountains make a
Clear Ηχω, but thou art in Pindar Αχα.
ECHO. .....................................R.A.K.
...............................................R.A. KNOX.

N.B. It is perhaps worth pointing out that Echo (in the personified form in Elizabethan texts) sometimes appears with this spelling: Eccho.
Other Echo Verse examples can be found here.

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Monday 16 March 2009

(5) Echo Verse and the Echo motif in the literature of other European countries

The Humanist, Erasmus ( 1466/1469-1536) incorporated an echo device into one of his dialogues.

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